Home Life

Happy Birthday to me…

Another year older and, as someone reminded me, another step closer to 40.

The birthday fairy brought me a vast assortment of presents and cards from around the world for which I am very grateful.

I took the day off to veg out for the day. Joanna always finishes at 11:50am and, on Wednesdays, Rachel finishes at 1:30pm. This allowed us to go to the cinema in the afternoon as a birthday treat.

Apparently, the definition of birthday treat has changed since my day. A birthday treat in this day and age means that you have to drive yourself and pay for everybody else to go and watch a film that they want to see. Suffice to say, I had a senior moment for about an hour and woke up just as the film was ending. I’m reliably informed, it got exciting about 5 minutes after I closed my eyes.

We got home this afternoon and the girls decorated my cake. Sam used candles that permanently stay lit.  So we watched as a large number of candles melted themselves into the chocolate icing. Note to self: buy tweezers. Wax aside, the cake tasted very nice.

Home Life

Road Trip

Yesterday saw the Kelly family decamp and head to Roseville to see Dug. He’s ex-HP, current-Samsung and British. He’s been very useful during our migration as he’s been able to give me pointers as to where I can go wrong and what to avoid.

Good fun was had by all. Sam got to visit a new mall, I got to buy a new TV for the bedroom (a tip is to measure the opening on your car boot before you buy the TV otherwise you may find yourself in the parking lot having to take everything out of the box and rotating your TV to get it into the car), the girls got to play with Dug’s energetic dog called Chloe and Dug got to buy lunch 🙂

This is the first trip outside of San Mateo/San Francisco counties for Sam and the girls and it was good to see that the car survived the journey.

This week sees my birthday arrive after another year. I’m being pestered to think up some presents that I might want. I’m busy clicking my way through the Fry’s on-line shopping site, desperately looking for ideas.


New Gadget

Father Christmas brought me a $50 gift card for CompUSA.

Up until now, I didn’t have anything I really wanted to buy with it. Today, I was scanning through DVD Jon’s (the guy notorious for DeCSS) blog at and was following some comments for one of his posts.

I came across a word-of-mouth recommendation for the Philips DVP642 DVD player.

As I’ve mentioned, the LCD TV that I bought from Best Buy doesn’t handle a PAL signal so the DVD players we brought over from the UK are no use to us unless we use the UK TV. This Philips DVD player is capable of outputting a PAL DVD as NTSC. Not only that, but a quick handset hack (Open/Close – 7 – 8 – 9 – OK – 0) makes the player region free. Better still, CompUSA had them on offer for $49.99.

So, I’m now watching the region 2 DVD of Minority Report on the LCD TV with my new DVD player ( did I mention it was progressive scan as well ? ).

Better still, I’ve moved the LCD back into the front room so I get to watch HDTV.

There is a God and he loves me 🙂


Death and Taxes

Two things guaranteed in life.

The death part of it came in the shape of a rat’s body found just outside our front room. It was quickly dispatched in a cardboard box via South San Francisco Scavengers (garbage men).

The taxes part has arrived in the shape of a W2 which is the equivalent of a P60. US tax year is January to December but filing must be done by 15th April. This gives me enough time to locate the best tax software (TurboTax apparently) and then work out what the heck I’m supposed to do.

The hunt starts for an accountant 🙂


Financial security

In the US, the typical way of saving for retirement is the 401K which is mostly equivalent to a pension plan with lots of added twists and turns. I need to investigate what is available to me but, according to this survey

I don’t need to bother.

I’m just off to the local Safeway to invest in Mega Millions.


Isn’t modern technology wonderful ?

Today I managed to achieve something that I didn’t think was possible through MSN.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been convinced that MSN will only allow you to have one webcam session running. That assumption turned out to be wrong as I had a 3-way Skype (for audio) conversation and two simultaneous 2-way webcam conversations with my brothers in Coventry.

It was fantastic. The audio quality was great (as you would expect from Skype). The video was a little stuttering but not unbearably so. We had a couple of rounds of charades until we found out that one of my brothers was experiencing a 10-second delay.

That would explain why he was always losing the game.

Home Life

Bullets over Millbrae

There’s interesting…

We’ve been having some damp in our bedroom and Rachel’s bedroom. Our landlord arranged for someone to come and look over the place and he went on to the roof for an inspection.

The guttering around the house has checked out but the inspector couldn’t find any immediate reason why the damp is happening. However, while he was on the roof, he made a discovery.

We’re now in possession of a genuine bullet. It’s been on the roof, with accompanying bullet hole, for a couple of years or so he believes. I have no idea where it could have come from. There aren’t that many drive-by shootings in Millbrae and East Palo Alto is over 20 miles away. This will have to remain an enigma for some time to come.

Still, it gives me something to write about.


Soooo Slooooowwww

OK, I promised not to be so miserable but …

Towards the end of 2005, with Christmas approaching and the fact we’re trying to save up the money to get back to the UK in the summer, things got a little tight financially. We’re over the hump now and we’ve spent the last couple of weeks balancing the books and working out the budget for 2006.

The one thing that this has highlighted is how slowly financial transactions are being handled.

Sam bought some books for the girls during the summer and the debit card transaction only appeared on our statement on Dec 31st. On some days, a purchase at Safeway will appear immediately. On others, it takes about 4 days. Refunds back to the card take a lot longer than the store taking the money from us in the first place.

Ho hum.


New Year Resolutions

It’s the start of 2006 and there are going to be some changes.

Over the past couple of months, people have been accusing me of being a miserable git which, to a certain extent, I can agree with. It’s also been requested that I post some pictures of our American life

To that end, I’ve bought some web space and will start to update this site on a more regular basis.

I also promise to be happier 🙂